A much vaunted Ku Klux Klan “victory parade” to celebrate the election of Donald Trump manifested as a hasty drive-thru in Roxboro as antifascists made a show of force in the group’s hometown and anti-Klan rallies took place in cities across North Carolina.
Karla McIntyre, an educator in Person County, became frantic when a former student texted to let her know that the Ku Klux Klan was driving through Roxboro, the county seat due north of Durham, around 3 p.m. on Dec. 3.
The surprise appearance, with members of the Loyal Knights of the Ku Klux Klan cruising through downtown in pickups flying Confederate flags while shouting “white power,” felt frightening and personal to McIntyre. Her oldest son, who is 18, came out as transgender and started a Students for Equality club at his high school. McIntyre’s middle child, a high school sophomore, recently came out as bisexual. The club, which welcomes straight allies, became a safe-haven for all kinds of students in their conservative county.
Then, in April, after the passage of HB 2, fliers listing the Loyal White Knights’ hotline and website began surfacing in residents’ driveways. The literature left no room for confusion about the group’s target.
“Transgender is an abomination, according to the King James Bible,” they read. “These freaks are jeopardizing the safety of bathrooms all across the nation for our women and children. This needs to stop.”
McIntyre recalled, “It was kind of a slap in the face to those of us who are trying to live open and freely. It affected us because our youngest son, who was 11, would not sleep at night because he was afraid the KKK would come and get his brother and hurt him or kill him.”
McIntyre’s former student, who is black, stood on the side of the street and videotaped the parade on his cellphone. She watched the video streaming over Facebook Live — the social media company later removed it — and felt her heart rise in her throat as she watched Klan members yell the N-word at her former student. State troopers blocked intersections to prevent conflict between the Klan caravan and other motorists.
The Loyal White Knights’ hasty motorcade through Roxboro was the fulfillment of a promise by the North Carolina-based white supremacist group to hold a “victory parade” to celebrate the election of Donald Trump. The announcement shortly after the election drew international headlines, fueled by the direct racial appeals used by Trump on the campaign trail, a rash of hate crimes in the wake of the election, and questions about the president-elect’s ties to white nationalists through his chief strategist and senior counselor, Steve Bannon.
Unannounced and fleeting, the parade projected more of a tactical retreat than a triumphant stand, with the Klan dodging anarchist counter-demonstrators and a retinue of international journalists across an area along the Virginia state line for much of the day, as North Carolinians in major cities like Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte, along with Mebane, turned out to express their disgust with the hate group.
The cat-and-mouse game began the previous evening when a representative of the Loyal White Knights informed a local reporter that they would parade in the area of Pelham, an unincorporated community in the northwest corner of rural Caswell County where the group is headquartered.
Anarchists and militant leftists, mostly from the Raleigh-Durham area, converged at a visitor center, with reconnaissance teams trying in vain to locate the Klan. After relocating to a gravel lane outside the Pelham Community Center, about 150 counter-demonstrators huddled and decided among themselves to march to a nearby church.
Marching behind a giant banner honoring the militant abolitionist John Brown, the protesters chanted, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay — KKK, go away,” and, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” Bringing up the rear of the parade, another banner proclaimed, “Against white supremacy: Screw the Klan, the Confederacy and the cops,” with a modified Ghostbusters logo depicting a hooded klansman one side of the text and a circle-A anarchy symbol on the other.
Some motorists encountering the marchers on the paved state road turned their vehicles around, but one man in a pickup pulled off to the side and took photographs of individual marchers. About halfway through the 1.2-mile march, a handful of Caswell County Sheriff squad cars arrived on the scene and deputies watched as the marchers passed, chanting, “No hate, no fear, KKK’s not welcome here.” One of the officers pursued the marchers and ordered them out of the roadway, to no avail. Another officer, who confirmed to a reporter that the marchers did not have a permit, fumed, “They should be at home asleep like everyone else.”
Later, after the marchers rounded a turn and headed back towards the community center, a State Highway Patrol unit advanced with lights activated and squawking. A handful of anarchists masked with bandannas and armed with aluminum baseball bats created a buffer at the back of the march, along with a vehicle carrying protesters that crawled slowly behind. When the marchers reached the community center, they piled into vehicles and streamed out, with the law enforcement officers happily directing traffic.
Acting on a hunch, the anarchists caravanned into Danville, a small industrial city 13 miles to the north across the Virginia state line, hoping to encounter the Klan. Arriving just after 12 noon, they narrowly missed a small group that regularly gathers in front of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History to protest the facility’s decision last year to take down the Confederate flag, according to a local resident named Robert Bordeau.
Unable to locate their adversaries, the anarchists marched through the streets of Danville at about 2 p.m. to express their antifascist message.
“What Trump did was unleash some nastiness in the fabric of our society that was heretofore bottled up,” said Andrew Blum, a software engineer from Cary. “Shame was what kept it bottled up. Now, it’s out. I don’t think it will be easy to put the genie back in the bottle, but I’m going to do what I can.”
In tandem with the Klan’s evasive appearance later in the afternoon in Roxboro — one county over from the group’s Caswell County base — the day’s events brought the arrest of the group’s imperial wizard, 37-year-old Christopher Eugene Barker.
Caswell County Sheriff Michael Welch reported that on the day of the Roxboro motorcade, 47-year-old Richard Dillon of Indiana appeared at the sheriff’s office and told deputies he had been stabbed at a Ku Klux Klan meeting at Barker’s house outside of Yanceyville. Caswell County Sheriff’s deputies, assisted by the State Highway Patrol, Alcohol Law Enforcement and the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, executed a search warrant on Barker’s house and arrested 50-year-old William Ernest Hagen of California and charged him with felony assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. They also arrested Barker and charged him with felony aiding and abetting assault.
Karla McIntyre said the Klan’s activity in her community creates division and threatens LGBTQ youth who already feel vulnerable enough as it is.
“I’m a mom, a teacher and a grad student,” said McIntyre, who is white. “With the KKK coming through, they weren’t trying to taunt people like me. What they don’t know about me is that I have children in my family that are in a minority group that they are taunting. I have students that call me ‘Ma’ that are on the LGBTQ spectrum who haven’t told their parents. Some of them are afraid they’re going to be kicked out of their homes or rejected. It’s scary what it’s coming to.”